UN Human Rights council holds a fourth special session to discuss the Syrian crisis

“I wish also to express my deep concern that for the fourth time the Human Rights Council is compelled to convene a Special Session to discuss the situation in Syria. I would like to echo the calls of the Secretary-General and of the Joint Special Envoy, Mr. Kofi Annan, for an immediate end to all forms of violence and human rights violations by all parties,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay told the Human Rights Council.

She emphasised the need to end impunity, to ensure accountability for perpetrators, and to provide adequate and effective remedies for the victims.

“I take this opportunity to call again on the Government of Syria to assume its responsibility to protect the civilian population in the country. I reiterate that those who order, assist, or fail to stop attacks on civilians are individually criminally liable for their actions. Other States have a duty to do all they can to prevent and prosecute perpetrators of international crimes. Once again, I urge the Security Council to consider referring the case of Syria to the International Criminal Court,” Pillay said.

Pillay reiterated her call to the Syrian government to grant the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria full and unimpeded access to the country so as to carry out investigations into all human rights violations, including the El-Houleh killings, during which at least 108 people including 49 children were killed.

She said: “In this context, I regret that, despite the Human Rights Council’s repeated calls on the Government of Syria to cooperate fully with the Commission of Inquiry, the Commission still has not been granted access to Syria. I have taken note of the Security Council’s call on the UN Supervision Mission in Syria to continue its investigations into the El-Houleh killings, and I urge the Government of Syria to cooperate fully with UNSMIS.”

Meanwhile, UN Independent Experts to the Human Rights Council in a joint statement said: “We deplore the fact that since the last special session and after more than one year of widespread violence, the situation has alarmingly deteriorated. The killings which have occurred over the past few days have again alerted us to the imperative for immediate action from the highest level, in particular President Assad.”

The statement read on behalf of the UN Independent Experts by Christof Heynsthe Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions said: “the use of indiscriminate and disproportionate use of artillery and tank shelling against residential areas is unacceptable.”

The Human Rights Council heard that livelihoods and access to medical care, food, and water have been affected across the country.

UN Independent Experts urged the Syrian authorities to ensure” unhindered access to humanitarian assistance, including to internally displaced persons,” adding that this must be a priority for all parties and be provided irrespective of other efforts to resolve the crisis.”

They also expressed concern over the impact of the violence and the growing number of internally displaced persons; they noted that more than 61,000 people are seeking shelter in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.

The Council voted a resolution condemning the recent killings in the village of El-Houleh, near Homs, describing it as “an outrageous use of force against the civilian population, which constitutes a violation of applicable international law and of the commitment of the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic…”

Forty-one members of the council voted for the resolution, three states voted against and there were two abstentions.

The Human Rights Council has previously convened three special sessions on Syria to address the human rights violations unfolding on the ground since violence erupted in the country in March 2011.

 1 June 2012


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